Washing hands may not seem worthy of a certificate, but for thousands of children in Bangladesh the simple practice has got them into the Guinness Book of World Records.
On Global Handwashing Day last October , Plan Bangladesh and its partners organised an event where 52,970 school children gathered at multiple locations across the country to wash their hands with soap and water. The campaign was set up to motivate people to change their attitude towards current hygiene practices and save lives.
Global Handwashing Day: handwashing demonstration in Sylhet, Bangladesh. Photo: MaMoni
Approximately 110,000 Bangladeshi children aged under 5 die due to diarrhoea every year. Hand washing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent the disease.
New world record
The gathering smashed the 2008 record which was set by Bangladesh and stood at 1,213 . Now Plan Bangladesh has received a certificate from the Guinness World Records which seals their place in history. [The official Guinness site still lists the record set on 19 October 2009 by the Edenglen primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa with 1,802 handwashing students, while India also claimed it had broken the record when about 15,000 students from 23 schools converged in a sports stadium n Chennai].
Zillur Rahman, Plan Bangladesh’s water and environmental sanitation specialist who coordinated the event, said: “We are very happy we broke the world record in this. Plan got involved in this campaign to highlight the bad hygiene practices in the country and we believe the campaign has raised this issue amongst people especially in the life of children.”
Spreading the word
On the day, 25,000 children gathered in a school playground in Dhaka to take part. After the event, one of the children said: “Now we know the importance of washing hands with soap and water and we will definitely tell our family and community about its benefit.” Thousands more school children washed their hands with soap and water simultaneously all over the country.
In Bangladesh, hygiene practices are generally poor. The national figure of washing hands with soap and water after defecation is 58.8% while this figure drops to 50.4% in rural areas.
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Source: Plan Bangladesh, 01 Jul 2010